If your career has hit a snag, you're uninspired in your current role, or want to embark on a new career entirely but are not sure how, help is at hand.

Career coaching is relatively new — only gaining traction in the 1990s, although an early form of the career coach principle can be traced back to the Great Depression when the concept of group coaching arose in the United States.

Today coaches are an increasingly popular resource for professionals looking to get to the next level in their life and career.

A good career coach can give you a kick in the pants, make you accountable and objectively identify issues that may be holding you back and suggest ways of moving forward.

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Auckland-based career and life coach Allison Fisher believes people should think about employing a coach when they feel dissatisfied in their job or can't stop negative thinking or speaking negatively.

"This could be in relation to the job itself, their manager, colleagues, culture, values, opportunities and remuneration."

She says a career coach can help them clarify the problem or dissatisfaction and begin to look into what the client wants to do about it.

Sometimes it might be the client is in the wrong industry altogether.

Fisher recalls one who went from working as a flight attendant to a funeral director and is a lot happier in the new role.

Though many of the people she deals with are motivated, intelligent professionals, she says they don't always have the objectivity or insight to extract themselves from career difficulties, or leave a job they have grown out of.

Sometimes the need is to dig underneath to see what is it someone really wants in life and career and what beliefs and behaviours may stop them.

"Sometimes the rut has got too deep and a specialist is the best person to assist them out of it," says Fisher.

Her skills as a life coach also come in handy. "Often clients come with questions in both areas — and they are impossible to separate — for instance how a career will meet life requirements, like money, location, values; and what may be stopping someone from gaining the next role or pursuing what they really want.

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"Sometimes the need is to dig underneath to see what someone really wants in life and career and what beliefs and behaviours may stop them."

Tom O'Neil from CareerCoach.nz, who has been in the career coaching industry in New Zealand for more than 20 years, says many only approach a career coach in a crisis — like a redundancy or work bullying issue.

"A career coach is invaluable here, as they give you insight and wisdom for next key steps, when these are usually clouded by the situation for the individual going though it.

"However in an ideal world, a person would see a career coach as an ongoing partner, and start the process when things are going well in their career. This allows them to have a 'non-panicky' mindset, and allows them to think deeply through mid and long term options, not just 'quick career fixes' to get to the next job."

He suggests choosing your coach carefully.

"What qualifications and experience do they have? Are they a member of CDANZ? Have they written any books or articles that point to their authority? Have they actually worked at your level (e.g. CEO) or industry (e.g. manufacturing) in their own career? Finally the most important component is trust — you must feel you can trust your career coach with your deepest motivations and thoughts (both career and personal)."

He says most people "fall up the ladder".

"By that I mean that they have no career plan, but through hard work and talent, end up near the top of the career ladder.

"Sadly they have no idea why they got there in the first place, so feel unfulfilled in their career. Many long-term clients come with lots of 'career baggage' from well-meaning parents or teachers who told them to get a certain type of job because they are talented at it, and it is a safe occupation.

"Sadly for many people, they are not passionate about this career choice, and see it as a 'necessary evil' to get through and succeed in other areas in life.

"I like to point my long-term clients to job types and careers they enjoy, rather than ones they are 'good at'. Being 'good at' something is not a strength, if you actually don't enjoy it. Once I point this out to my clients, a 'lightbulb' goes off for many, and they feel they are 'released' from unwise advice they received throughout their earlier career.

"Recently a friend changed to becoming a tour guide after she was made redundant as an accountant. She now loves her job that fulfils her passion for people and travel."

How many visits do you need to schedule?

"It depends on the perceived need.

"Most people come for a short term solution (one to three sessions), however those who take their career seriously realise a career coach is a partner they share their hopes and dreams with over their career, partnering with them until they retire."